A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

by Stacy Schiff

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A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great read. A lone American goes to France to convince a monarchy to back a revolution. Franklin pulled off the impossible despite being undermined by Congress and British and American spies. In one way, it was a terrific con, which makes this book a pleasure. But Franklin's belief in America was sincere, and he brilliantly explained the ideas behind the country. He out-philosophized the country of philosophers. He out-witted the country of great wits. I loved the way this book balances the serious and the humorous. (There was a mania for Franklin 'merchandise'!) Also, it's written with energy and style. I read aloud to whomever was in the room many, many brilliant one-liners.
Unreachableshelf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An engrossing and informative account that goes far beyond common knowledge of the French involvement in the American Revolution and shows additonal sides of important founding fathers.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What can I say? Stacy Schiff's sparkling prose is a joy. This book covers Benjamin Franklin's time in France, or in her own words:"The outline of his unfinished autobiography ends: 'To France. Treaty, etc.' This is the story of those four words, with emphasis on the last."Schiff's book is not written for someone looking for a concise Franklin biography. Her oblique references to Franco-American relations and misunderstandings, to Franklin's position in the founding father pantheon (she shrinks Adams, who had recently seen a revival, back to size) require from the reader a good working knowledge of history. Franklin's life serves as a theme for countless improvisations and insights about the man, his time and our world.
tburghart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Only because I have the utmost respect for and interest in what Franklin did in Paris did I finish this book.The prose in this book is so contorted, and the actual information content so weak, that I had to work to finish it. Had I known how little reward would be forthcoming for the effort, I'd never have started.I'm an avid reader of history, and I bought this book because I'd seen some good reviews for it, but I doubt that I'll ever buy another of Ms. Schiff's works again.
carterchristian1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting what different positions my previous LT reviewers took on this book. It is of course hardly a full blown biography of Franklin, but one that focuses on his French experience. I would judge it competent.
CritEER on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
- In support of the American Revolution, Franklin most significant contribution came as ambassador to France and this book concentrates on Franklins 9 years in France (1776 - 1785)- Franklin was 70 year old and spoke little French when he arrived, yet his diplomatic efforts were often brilliant¿the American Colonies needed money, munitions, gunpowder and recognition/support from France and Franklin was able to deliver- Joseph Ellis is spot on when he stated ¿she (Schiff) is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today¿ and what makes this book so outstanding is this book reads like a novel with swindles, vendettas, a cast of colorful characters, and humor¿- Stacy Schiff is author of Vera (Mrs Vladimir Nabokov) which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2000
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
I found this book a delight to read, rich in detail of personalities especially the French. Schiff does a fine job of setting up in juxtaposition the personalities especially of Adams and Franklin (a legacy with which we continue to struggle) as well as the European monarchies and intrigue with America as newcomer and democracy. Recommended for all interested in the history and founding of the USA as well as America's place in the global political arena.
rmgonline More than 1 year ago
Stacy Schiff, previously author of a a fascinating biography of Vera Nabokov, has written yet another subtle book recounting Benjamin Franklin's diplomatic mission to France in 1776 and its importance to the success of the beleaguered American revolution. Impeccably researched and frequently side-splittingly funny (due to the French aristocracy's penchant for turning everything they favored into toys for their amusement - with tragic consequences 15 years later - many Frenchmen were not quite as amused by the spectacle of the idle rich at play.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great and entralling way to learn about one of the most ingenious and creative man in our history.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Well researched and well written by someone who clearly loves the subject matter. Benjamin Franklin is portrayed as the man he really was, all his achievements and his foibles are illustrated with the greatest of care. The Franklin here is the man of the people vilified by his own for a service that only he was capable of, The father who gave up his beloved son for a cause whose love of family extended to all save for his own wife and daughter whom he ignored with as much fervor as that with which he brokered alliances with Europe. It was his unique American identity, an identity that was as yet still foreign even to other Americans that made its way to Paris and an uncertain future on the heels of a world changing war. The book itself is a treasure trove of secondary and tertiary information on events and people too often ignored by the histories. From Characters like Chaumont and the Brillons to the secret power brokers 'of which Paris seemingly overflowed with' like the firebrand playwright Beaumarchais whose patriotic passions flamed brighter from the streets of Paris than any to be found in Boston. This books greatest strength is also its weakness. The scope is so expansive that a single book can barely do justice, leaving a book that is overfilled with insights and information that at times give the appearance more of a historical jumble of facts and figures. There are too many characters whose egos alone could fill volumes, to many important dates and events worth note that one is left with a feeling that the whole is less that the parts. Despite this, I recommend the book with regards and with the following advice¿ Read ¿A Great Improvisation¿ along with ¿The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin¿ by Gordon S. Wood to gain a full understanding of this very complicated Promethean figure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An informative, well written narrative that's fun to read. If you have any interest whatsoever in Franklin or the birth of America, you will love this book.